By: Garrick Valverde
It’s Saturday afternoon and a group of our riders decided to meet at Chipotle to have a pre race meal and to discuss tactics a few hours ahead of the race. The weather could not have been better. We ate outside in the sun while cracking jokes and raising all of our excitement for the race to come.
On race day I always get waves of nerves. They come up sometimes randomly and I feel them in my gut, like a jolt of energy. While we’re talking strategy someone will say, “Ok, so Garrick you’ll attack coming into the 3rd lap. Go hard but don’t be doing 1000 watts.” SMASH there goes another wave. No one sitting around the table would ever notice; the nerves are hidden. When I was first starting out racing these waved of nervousness used to make me feel sick to the point where I couldn’t eat. Now I welcome them. I even look forward to them. They charge me up.
After we all got registered and our numbers were pinned, we set out on an easy hour and a half ride to warm up and fine-tune our strategy. We knew we’d be the biggest team with seven riders so we’d have many cards to play. Our prime objective was to get Michael Allison the win. The spring fling is a point-based series. Michael won the first weekend, and a win today would help secure an overall win for the series. The race course is a flat .8 mile loop. Breakaways are almost always the final outcome, and there are three sprint laps with points up for grabs to the top four riders.
I lined up next to Benn Stover on the start line at the back of the field of just over 20 riders. Small races many times prove to be the hardest with nowhere to hide. Benn and I quietly talked with each other about which teams and specific riders to be aware of. The race started and the pace was quite chill for the first couple laps. Our objective these first few laps was to float mid pack and attempt to make a selection with as many of the Olathe Subaru riders as possible coming into the 3rd lap. My role was to gun it coming through the start finish with several of the team on my wheel. The hope was that we could get a split on the field after turn 1 and 2. As we approach the 3rd lap, I crouched low over my bars and went for it. After 15 or so seconds of hard pulling, I flicked my elbow for Kent to come through. We were flying. But as I looked back, the whole field, although strung out, were on our wheels. As Benn started his pull I shouted to scratch the plan.
The pace lulled for just a couple seconds. With some great improvisation, Kent attacked. The field hesitated. Grayson Warrior from Team Colavita went and I got on his wheel. At this point, race tactics have to be primarily reaction based. Things are happening so fast and the pain is quite high that, for me anyways, I’m not really thinking much. I’m just highly aware of the situation.
Grayson made a massive effort up to Kent, but the field was close behind us. Ian Silovsky countered and again the field lulled. A few different teams worked to pull Ian back. It took about a half lap. Once he was caught, Benn attacked by himself. I’ll just say at this point I’m hurting. I’ve gone hard several times in the span of less than ten minutes. With such few riders to help pull these attacks back, I know the break will likely form in the next few laps.
With Benn about 30 meters up the road, the chase took a momentary pause as the riders taking turns at the front look for help. Michael Allison and I attacked at this moment and a few riders went with us. I believe we had five total, but unfortunately Benn was not with us, so our representation in the break could have been better. About a lap and a half goes by and my pain is bad. I’ve been taking really hard pulls (maybe harder than I should have) to get the break established. I’m a little fuzzy on the details but Benn, Scott, and another rider made a great bridge to our group. A sharp acceleration for a preme dropped me. I was in no mans land trying to claw my way back when Joe Petersen from Rasmussen Bike Shop caught me. I’ll be honest, I haven’t heard of Joe before, but he is tough. He pulled me up to the break, now seven riders strong (four Olathe Subaru riders). The other riders are Joe, Jack Funk from Team Arapahoe Resources, and Ethan Luebbe from Blue River Bicycle club.
The seven of us were pulling well together and we went though the start line and heard the gap was 20 seconds to the field. At this point, I was solely focused on our tempo. The laps ticked down surprisingly fast. While the break was forming, we had our first sprint at 25 laps to go. I believe Michael was 2nd. The second sprint was at 15 laps to go and Michael won that. Michael won the final sprint lap with 9 to go. Scott Williamson took 2nd in couple of the sprint laps, earning him valuable points. At some point we lapped the field. The main focus was on the three other riders. Jack was the only one really going for a solo ride and his numerous attacks really hurt, however there were too many of us there to chase him down. With one lap to go, Benn led the field for ¾ of the lap. Coming out of the second to last turn I gave it everything I had with Michael on my wheel. We came through the final turn and the rest of the riders were gapped off. With 200 meters to the line Michael opened up his sprint. I looked back and saw our gap, and I couldn’t help but celebrate early with a fist pump. We did it. Michael 1st, Scott 2nd, me 4th, Benn 7th, and Kent 8th. For sure a great day of racing.
Next weekend we’ll be at Spring Fling on Saturday and head to NWA Classic in Arkansas on Sunday.